Time flies when you're having fun. I guess that is what you could call this blog, one year in the making -- fun. How else would you describe late-night alligator hunts and dances with poles or a dip into a pool of grits?
One year ago, I started a new chapter of my life in South Carolina, started this blog and invited all of you readers to come along for the ride. This blog started as an idea -- see South Carolina through the eyes of a newcomer. Armed with a camera, I set out to explore my new home.
So after one year what have I learned about South Carolina -- I love bluegrass, barbeque and alligators.
On my first assignment, I discovered alligators. I know that sounds so trivial to most but I had never seen one before. When I got the chance to spend an evening following an alligator hunt, I was excited and maybe even a little scared to see one, especially in the same boat as I.
Funny thing was, I finished that assignment not with fear but respect for these creatures, who have outlived the dinosaurs. Our guide, Ron Russell, taught me a lot about alligators that night. It was obvious he had a deep respect and admiration for the reptiles; pointing out how gracefully they moved through the water. It was amazing to see how many gators lined the banks of the Cooper River, not bothering a soul.
My family came to visit last spring and I took them out boating. I wanted them to have the excitement of seeing an alligator up close as well. Seriously, I know most who live here think nothing of it but how cool is it to see alligator? Very I say!
From killing alligators to saving sea turtles I discovered one thing -- South Carolina sure has its share of prehistoric animals.
I visited South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital and learned a lot about turtles. Turns out they are not that smart and slow to evolve therefore making them endangered. They are fun to watch but all I could think of was that line from "Finding Nemo" about wanting to know the ago of a sea turtle. Sea Turtle Hospital staff members Kelly Thorvalson and Dr. Shane Boylan couldn't answer that question. Think about it, who has lived long enough to gauge the age of a turtle who probably lives for over 100 years.
In between some wildlife adventures I managed to meet some very interesting people as well, like the girls of Goddess Dance Studio. This group of ladies knew how to have fun, workout and cause a little controversy along the way. Judging by the more than 170 comments and counting, everyone has an opinion on spinning on poles for exercise. I actually thought the comments were much more entertaining than anything I could write.
Pole dancing may never be an Olympic sport but is sure breaks the mold for boring workouts.
Not as controversial but still a popular blog sent me to Conway to the UFO Welcome Center. Jody Pendarvis has to be one of the most interesting people I have met. He believes -- and he has a welcome center to prove it. Most nights you can find him on the top level of his flightless ship staring at the stars waiting for his next encounter.
First time I visited the welcome center, Pendarvis was gone but the next time I came he gave me the grand tour. After touring the three-story structure, I realized Pendarvis was more like a big kid building the tree house he always wanted. He proves there is a kid in all of us at any age.
Some kids build spaceship forts, others role around in grits. I don't eat grits which puts me in the minority in South Carolina. In St. George, the grits capital of the world-- I was completely out of my element. By far the funniest thing I have seen since moving here would have to be people swimming in grits at the World Grits Festival.
The contestants take this seriously as they prepare for their dip in the grits. They wear heavy clothing to absorb as much water use duct tape to close up any openings in their clothing where grits might escape. After a dip in the freezing cold pool, they get weighed and washed off. Its amazing in what places you find grits -- ears, nose, hair.
Then of course, there were the extreme assignments like Old School Championship Wrestling. I loved wrestling growing up but never paid much attention to the "sport" in recent years. I was an instant fan of these weekend warriors who punished their bodies and each other to put on a great show for the crowd.
The best part, the whole thing takes place in the back room of a bar. You can't get more old school than that.
Then there were those stories that not only are fun but bring a smile to the face and maybe even a tear to the eye. One such story was that of the Summerville Miracle League, a group of amazing volunteers and parents who make it possible for those with mental and physical disabilities to play baseball.
What a great feeling to see the smiles on these kids as they hit the ball and race around the bases. First the league reaffirmed my faith in the human spirit and it also reminded me why we play in the first place -- for the love of the game.
Ofcourse, my finest hour was the day I spent on a shrimp boat. Wayne Magwood and his crew invited me along to see what it takes to be a shrimper. Well, after spending half the day hanging over the side of the boat, I realized I am not cut out for the life of a shrimper. Frankly, not many people could. Those guys put in long hours not for the pay but for the love of the sea.
I will never balk at the price of shrimp again!
One thing unmistakably South Carolina is bluegrass music and there is no better way to experience it than on a Saturday night at Guy & Tina's Bluegrass Pickin Parlor in Four Hole Swamp. A small shack filled with old couches and old people is also filled with the sounds of music as musicians come from all over to jam at the parlor.
Since that night I have had the opportunity to hear a lot of bluegrass but I always think back to that night and how much fun it was to see some grass roots music being played.
If South Carolina were a painting in my head, each story I wrote was like a brush stoke. I learned more about my new home in one year than I knew about a state I lived in all my life.
After my first blog, I wondered how I would ever find a story as cool as an alligator hunt. Now I wonder how I could ever top the year of fun I have had finding the stories I have found. Stay tuned I'm only getting started.
Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at firstname.lastname@example.org.